Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hooray for TKD in NYC!

So last night Alison and I went for dinner with Kyle (aka The Kyle Davis, aka TKD) and his lovely lady friend Emily. For those outside of Portland, Kyle is the younger brother of my former roommate Spencer. We hung out on a pretty regular basis during my stay in Portland and got to be pals. Kyle is a good man and I was happy when he wanted to get together during his brief trip to town.

We met near Central Park at Jekyll and Hyde's but evidently it was too packed inside and full of load kids so we wandered until we found a really nice and surprisingly affordable Vietnamese joint near Times Square. Dinner and conversation were both good and we decided a night cap was in order. At my suggestion (oops) we wound up at a bar I'd passed a couple of weeks back on 8th and 38th that I thought was a Tiki Bar. Named The Distinguished Makamba Bar (we didn't know it was the scene of a former crack related police shooting but thanks to Alison's google skills we do now!). it was distinguished all right, if your definition of distinguished involves the smell of fresh urine.

There's a good Village Voice write up on the bar here but to save you a click, here's the important part:

"To their credit, the reviewers at Shecky's actually visited the DISTINGUISHED WAKAMBA LOUNGE (543 Eighth Avenue, no phone number), but they were so disturbed by what they found, they called it "right above self-lobotomy and just below swimming in sewage." What did this breezy little spot—located adjacent to a Gray's Papaya and a DVD porn palace on an admittedly sullied midtown strip—do to deserve such notoriety? Well, for one thing, the Wakamba was the site of a drug sting resulting in the murder of an innocent man: Undercover cops fatally shot 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond after allegedly (and unsuccessfully) trying to buy crack from him here. But macabre past aside, a recent trip to the Wakamba found its only crime to be overpriced bottles of Budweiser ($5). The bar was surprisingly whimsical, with nautical nets strewn about and sea creatures dangling from the ceiling, not to mention faux palm trees and touches of tiki thatch. Attentive Latina bartenders in scintillating outfits served us glasses with our brews and plates of peanuts too, to the top of which they thoughtfully applied extra salt. And while DT undercovers still seem to populate the place (witness the late-night blue-collar clientele), so do the more adventurous fashion plates who work in the garment district. "

We wandered in and grabbed a corner table flush against a mirrored tile covered wall. Alison promptly moved to the other side of the table when we realized that the corner smelled of pee. The buxom bartender came over and took our order, the conversation went something like this:

Bartender: Yes?
Kyle: Gin and tonic please.
Bartender: Si.
Emily: Vodka and Cranberry Juice please.
Bartender: Si.
Alison: Nothing for me, thanks.
Bartender: Non? Si.
Ian: Maker's Mark And Lemonade, please.
Bartender: Que?
Ian: Maker's Mark And Lemonade, please.
Bartender: Que?
Ian: Maker's Mark. It's bourbon. I'd like it with lemondae please.
Bartender: Bourbon?
Ian: Yes, bourbon.
Bartender: Bourbon? Que?
Ian: Whiskey. It's whiskey.
Bartender: Que?
Ian: I'd like a whiskey and lemonade.
Bartender: Si... uh... heeheehee. (motions with her hand that she'll be right back).

Bartender comes back with Kyle's drink and Emily's drink and looks at me at which point I point at Kyle's gin and tonic and tell her I'll have one of those, noticing that right behind the bar beside the cash register was a bottle of Maker's Mark. I figured it wasn't worth the effort.

Other interesting things about this bar besides the fantastic service and smell of fresh urine?
-Mirror tiled all over the place
-plastic palm trees
-fish nets attached to the roof containing plastic starfish and plastic crabs
-a plethora of young, nesting mosquitos in the men's room
-a very empty dance floor
-a strange wood panelled back room
-wooden sculptures of something resembling the Seattle Space Needle behind the bar

The clientele was made up of Spanish dudes and black dudes, meaning that this was either the world's most amazingly lowbrow gay bar or it was a place where local immigrant types came to ogle buxom bartenders who don't speak English. Either way it was a win-win as far as people watching went, though Alison doesn't want to go back anytime soon, something about the smell of urine not appealing to her or some such nonsense. Girls will be girls, I suppose.
For some stupid reason, I forgot my camera but we found a couple of pictures of the interior online this morning, and I've made the appropraite notations in blue text...

At any rate we walked Kyle and Emily back to the hotel and said goodbye before heading over to the Virgin Megastore to look for CDs that they apparantly don't stock. From there we went to wards the subway to go home and watch Killer Snakes (hooray for Shaw Bros. DVDs!) and in that two block radius we managed to get stuck inside an insane crowd who had gathered along the streets to watch Will Smith. It was packed. We could barely move in amongst the screaming middle aged ladies gathered there to show their appreciation for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Alison was moving too fast and trying too hard not to kill people to notice but Will was there on the other side of the street dressed in what looked kind a like a Batman outfit sans the cape and cowl. I have no idea what he was filming but if you see a movie come out soon with a scene where Will Smith is running by the NYPD booth in the middle of Times Square, that'd probably be it.

We got home and unwound and watched TV and zoned out. It was a good day, a fun day and it was great to see Kyle and Emily, but it was also a long day.

Today I slept in. Huzzah! But to bring things full circle, Alison found this review for the Makamba this afternoon...
"A FEW WEEKS AGO, Adrianne and I spent a sunny afternoon strolling the "dirty 30s." You know it: the length of 8th Ave. below Port Authority where the air is scented with dried semen, desperation and a dash of Wild Turkey. In a McDonald's–izing Manhattan, the 30s are refreshingly fetid. All porn and lurid neon and…Hawaiian thatch hut?

"Oh, my gosh, I'm in love!" Adrianne said, peeking into the Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge. Though seemingly built—and last cleaned—when Hawaii became a state, the Wakamba set off dive-bar bells: blue-collar men burping down Budweiser under the glow of Christmas lights. We made plans to come back and sate our mai tai jones.

In the meantime, I Googled "Wakamba." Exactly 793 citations popped up, several of which proved interesting. I discovered, for starters, that Wakamba is a Kenyan tribe. I also found out that, in March 2000, the breezy little cocktail lounge was the site of a grisly mistake.
One dark night, a 26-year-old Haitian-American named Patrick Dorismond was having a nightcap at Wakamba. The young man exited and a couple undercover cops approached him, attempting to score crack.

Dorismond, understandably, was miffed to be deemed a crack slinger. A cop started barking (seriously!), escalating tensions. Fisticuffs ensued. Several swings later, Dorismond's chest became the not-so-grateful owner of a New York Police Dept. bullet. Giuliani's goons, fresh off Amadou Diallo, were cleared of charges. Ah, Wakamba—what other pearls does your rotten oyster shell contain?

Last Tuesday, Adrianne and I plan to meet A——— and find out. A——- color-corrects layouts for a women's magazine yet remains a skuz-loving lush. He damn near cried when the Village Idiot closed. We're running 10 minutes late when my cellphone rings.

"For the love of God, this is not the bar for us," he whispers. "We. Don't. Belong. Here."
Calm down, I say. It can't possibly be that bad.

"I am finishing my beer and leaving. Now."

Hold on, I say. We'll be there in a minute.


A minute later, we're at Wakamba. We peek inside. All seems placid. An American-flag-shaped light abuts a jaunty nautical life preserver. A crew-cut man wearing a khaki Polo shirt guards the door. A———is sitting alone, sucking back a Beck's. He quick-foots it outside.

What's wrong? I ask.

"Where should I begin?"

The beer.

"Okay, so I sit down at a table. Gloria Gaynor is on the jukebox. A waitress—a short-shorts-wearing Latina who looks like a Hooters reject—takes my order. I ask, 'What's happy hour?' 'Qué?' she replies. 'Happy hour?' 'Qué?' I was hoping for something tiki-esque—like a piña colada, you know, to go with the theme."

He pauses to light a cigarette.

"No piña coladas. The place is under Dominican ownership. And the cheapest beer is a five-dollar bottle."

"Anyway, I order a Beck's and a bum beside me passes out. A few minutes later, he wakes up and—"I Will Survive" is still playing—starts wildly swinging and punching. The doorman kicks him out. Then a couple actors go to the bathroom—together…"

Okay, okay, I say. Let's just go inside and gather your things.

Now, I'm a man who savors cockroach-friendly establishments like Holland Bar, Holiday Cocktail Lounge and Mars Bar. But as Crew Cut opens the door, ushering us into a world where Nelly's "Hot in Here" coats the eardrums of slit-eyed Marlboro Red smokers, I realize "tiki" is a four-letter word.

It's not so much the music, bums, threadbare thatch, neighboring dildo salesmen or remedial-Spanish beer-ordering requirement: These factors, separately, make for fabulous atmosphere. Combined, however, they create a powder-keg of unpredictability. And I like my unpredictability, well, predictable. Such as when Stefan, Holiday Cocktail's craggy bartender, sings World War II fight songs. Ha-ha unpredictable; not, Why is that man in the stained Dickies work jacket staring at my soft, fleshy bits? Is that a knife in his pants? He's certainly not happy to see me unpredictable.

We do an about-face and, for the first time in eons, A——— leaves beer in his bottle.

Seeking refuge, we grab draft Bud at Bellevue—9th Ave.'s porn-loving metal dive. A bartendress with curly raven hair and gold hula-hoop earrings takes our order.

"So, what's the story?" she asks.

We tell her.

"Ooh, that place is super ghetto. Get-toe. What were you thinking?" she asks.

When we have no answer, she teaches us a valuable dirty-30s lesson:

"Listen up: You don't go to 8th Ave. to get a drink—you go there to get a whore."
Ahhh..... The Makamba. You truly are a magical place.


The Hamzinger said...

Maybe will smith was doing a promo or re-shoots for Hancock?

Glad you found the most horrible place you could to show out-of-towners to. Can't wait for my turn!

ianjane said...

I wondered if it was Hancock, can't think of anything else it would be.

Oddly enough, while we were sitting in the bar I turned to Kyle and said 'know who'd love this place' and he said 'Noland.'

That joint's got your name written all over it.

The Kyle said...

i will send you those picshures later today when i'm on my computar. just moved them off my cellecular telemaphone last noight.

The Hamzinger said...

Reading about that joint and then hearing Kyle's recollection, it sounds brilliant. I want to pee there and then drink (not my pee, tho').